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Snedeker back and hopes to regain form

Tuesday - 3/19/2013, 8:10pm  ET

DOUG FERGUSON
AP Golf Writer

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- When last seen on a golf course, Brandt Snedeker was capping off an amazing run by winning the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. He mentioned his ribs being sore, but never let on that the pain began to increase over the last four or five holes that Sunday.

That was five tournaments ago.

Snedeker, who also missed the U.S. Open last summer because of a rib injury, returns to competition this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He said his rib muscle was strained on the left side, which was causing the pain. And while the two rib injuries are not related, there is concern about why it keeps happening.

"I had about every test run you can possibly have run," Snedeker said. "The good news is I'm completely healthy. The bad news is I'm completely healthy. So I don't know why it keeps happening. I was kind of hoping that something would creep up that would lead me to see why this keeps happening, and nothing came up. So just have to chalk it up to bad luck, I guess, and get back healthy."

He could have returned last week in the Tampa Bay Championship, but sat out one more week as a precaution. Instead, he added the Houston Open next week, with everything geared toward being ready for the Masters.

His expectations haven't changed, even though Snedeker surely accumulated some rest over the past month. He was considered the hottest guy in golf, finishing runner-up in consecutive weeks to Tiger Woods (Torrey Pines) and Phil Mickelson (Phoenix) before winning at Pebble.

So strong was his performance that Snedeker remains No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings, even though Woods has won twice. He remains No. 4 in the world.

"I'm probably the freshest guys on the PGA Tour right now because I haven't played in five weeks, and I'm probably one of the few guys that is really excited about the next stretch of golf," he said. "So I feel great about it. I just want to give myself a chance on Sunday. With a great field like this, would be a lot of fun."

Snedeker watched plenty of golf on television. He moved into a new house in Nashville.

But is he still the hottest guy in golf?

"I am not playing anywhere near as well as Tiger Woods is right now, so we can answer that question and get that out of the way," Snedeker said. "He's playing unbelievable golf. That being said, I'd love to see him on Sunday afternoon and see how I stack up against him. He's sharp right now. I've got to develop that again."

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ARNIE'S GRANDSON: Sam Saunders first played the Arnold Palmer Invitational as an 18-year-old. After leaving Clemson, he received a sponsor's exemption each of the past three years, twice making the cut without being in serious contention.

The exemptions were not surprising. He's Palmer's grandson.

Saunders, though, is playing this year on the Web.com Tour. He finished 50th on the developmental tour a year ago. He tied for 12th in Chile two weeks ago. He is in Louisiana this week. The hope is to try to finish among the top 25 to secure his PGA Tour card.

"That's where he needs to be," Palmer said. "If he's good enough to play here, he has to prove it to me. He has to play on the dot-com tour first. He's aware of it. He's very aware of it. Why do they want to play here if they can play over there until they're qualified to be over here."

Palmer believes his grandson is on the right track, and now needs only some consistency, which he is likely to find in a full season on the Web.com Tour.

He also was aware that giving his grandson a spot at Bay Hill meant turning down a more deserving player.

"I've got to look at all these kids in the face when I gave Sam an exemption, which he doesn't deserve," Palmer said. "How can I tell them they don't get an exemption if they're good? So it was an easy decision."

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LEWIS DEAL: Two days after Stacy Lewis rose to No. 1 in the women's world ranking with her win in Arizona, she signed a deal worthy of the LPGA's best player.

Omega said Tuesday it has added the 28-year-old American to its roster of ambassadors.

"We are thrilled to welcome Stacy Lewis to the Omega family, where she joins a great group of some of the top players from the world of golf," said Omega president Stephen Urquhart. "Her recent surge to the top of the women's ranking makes her an outstanding role model for professional golfers worldwide."

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